Two Executors in a Will: Pros & Cons
People have the option of appointing more than one executor or personal representative. This can have benefits but, as with most things, there can be a downside as well.
(Note: the term “personal representative” is the current legal term used to refer to an executor/executrix, administrator/administratix, and trustee.)
Benefits of 2 Executors in a Will
The executor has a lot of responsibility. Appointing two executors in a will can lighten the load as both people will have the authority to act for the deceased. If each executor has a different skill set, they can each take on the duties they are best suited for, ensuring that all tasks are completed properly.
Another reason to appoint co-executors is to ensure that the estate is distributed in a fair, honest manner. This can offer an individual peace of mind before death, and ensure the family has peace of mind during the probate process.
Possible Negative Consequences
While these can be significant benefits, there are potential negative consequences of appointing two executors in a will. The Estate Administration Act stipulates that personal representatives must act unanimously. Any serious disagreements that cannot be resolved between two executors must be settled in court.
While you may think your two adult children will simply agree on everything, in reality that may not be the case. Two people who have different values and ideas may see things differently. It’s important to ask both potential executors whether they think they can work together and how they will handle disagreements before naming them in your will.
In addition, when there are two executors (or more), each one is legally responsible for the others’ actions. If the other person takes funds out of the estate and was not legally allowed to do so, the co-executor is on the hook. The co-executor does have the option to sue the person who took the funds but there is no guarantee that the funds will be recovered.
Another potential downside is a situation in which one of the executors refuses to help. It’s not unusual for people who have been appointed as an executor in a will to not want to take on the job. There are various reasons for this, including ill health, too little time, and relationship issues within the family.
In a co-executor situation, however, this means that one executor is left trying to get things done but cannot because he or she needs the participation of the executor who is refusing to act. This stalls the process of distributing the estate, which is frustrating for everyone involved.
In such situations, it is best for the executor who is not participating to renounce the right to be a co-executor. This is done by signing a renunciation form that can be included with the will when applying for probate.
When you create a will and appoint an executor, you should also appoint an alternate executor. This person will take over the executor duties if your first choice dies, is unable to act as executor, or decides he or she does not wish to be the executor.
The appointed executor does not have to consult the alternate executor. The alternate executor is only named in the will to fill in for the appointed executor if required.